A couple of days ago, during my visit to the University of Nigeria Nsukka, I met up with recently published Nigerian author, Hillary Odo. His new book was virtually everywhere! Interestingly, he is an undergraduate of Engineering. His enviable confidence, the unique way he chooses his words and his unalloyed determination to make a difference at a young age by joining the league of Nigerian writers such as Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie etc stands him out. He is unbelievably humble, soft spoken, with an adorable sense of humor. He believes strongly in self development and personal improvement. Hillary is doing remarkably well for himself at the moment. He found time off his busy schedule to have this conversation with me – in fact he literally sneaked out from a movie location for this chat.
Hillary talks about his new book –The stolen Joy – and also how he manages to remain sane, combining his degree course with writing, acting and script-writing.
What inspired you into writing?
I started writing at a very young age. In those days, I used to have numerous visitors of friends and relatives in my family. They usually share stories of what happened in the village and other places to my mother. At a point, I said to myself that I could join some parts of those stories to form a whole. And because I enjoy making people to think in the right direction, I decided to write. I wrote some books then that weren’t published because I wasn’t serious with it. But my joy is that it was through trying then that I got convinced that I could do it.
Tell us a bit about yourself. As an ‘engineer to be’, how did you pick up interest in the art?
My name is Hillary Odo. I hail from Ohebe-Dim in Igbo Etiti L.G.A of Enugu state, Nigeria. I am presently an undergraduate student of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
I got interested in art when I discovered that I could write and form stories. It was through writing that I started taking some roles in movies. I have featured in movies alongside artists like Chika Ike, Ini Edo, Kenneth Okonkwo, Patience Ozokwor, Frank Artus, Ngozi Ezeonu and many others. I wouldn’t want God’s gift in me to die just because of my profession. I fully concur with the words of Leo Buscaglia which says: “Talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” In a nutshell, I want to give God’s gift back to Him.
Tell us about your book. Title, genre etc
The title of my novel is, “The Stolen Joy”. It is a prose written in a simple language. The novel was published in December 2013 by Godical Int’l Resource here in Nigeria. It has 233 pages excluding its preliminary pages.
The story centres around two different families in an Igbo community with some modern settings. Characters like Jessy, Oyili, Ekwunife, Olusola and Afam built up the major part of the storyline. In the work, Jessy’s only son, Afam, is suddenly declared missing after the death of her husband, Jide. The Chief Priest when visited did not reveal the truth behind the mystery because he has eaten the forbidden fruit given to him by Oyili. As the agonies become harrowing and devastating, Jessy divorces and gets married to the killer of her late husband. No one can tell if “The Stolen joy”, Afam, is still alive and will ever return again…In summary, the novel is suspense-filled and intriguing.
How did you come up with the title?
Choosing a title for the novel was almost as challenging as writing the book itself. The novel has several themes with prominent characters. Because of that, it became difficult to get a title that could embrace the themes. But at long last, the idea of “The Stolen Joy” came up and I saw it as a befitting title for the work.
Is there any message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Oh yes, a lot. First is the need to be resilient as was with the case of Jessy in the book. The novel equally exposes the negative consequences of greed, envy, hatred, crime and negligence to some Igbo cultures and traditions. The most important message there is that we should always keep our hope and faith alive even when it seems that all hope is lost. A typical example is Afam’s return in the novel.
What books have most influenced your life the most?
Books like “A Lawyer’s Temptation” by G.C Nnamani, Elechi Amadi’s book, “The Concubine”, Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, “A Widening Gyre” by Calistus Awoke, “Purple Hibiscus” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and plays like “Sons and Daughters” by J.C De Graft, “The Gods Are Not To Blame” by Ola Rotimi.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I would say G.C Nnamani and Elechi Amadi. In fact, Justice G.C Nnamani published the first book I co-authored with Agatha chinwe in 2007 with his company name as Genna Publications Ltd. The title of the book is, “The Hand of Fate”
How do you combine, acting, writing, script-writing and engineering?
[Laughs] Well, achieving different things in life is possible. It all depends on one’s effort and how good you are in doing what you have chosen to do. Determination is another key factor. As an Engineer in the making, I write and act mostly on holidays. It hardly clashes with my academic work.
Do you see writing as a career?
Of course, I do. Like I earlier said, it all depends on how good you are as a writer. I don’t think writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Prof. Wole Soyinka can have better careers other than writing.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes. It’s not easy to sit still in your chair with your hands upon your desk; thinking, writing, arranging and re-arranging. Secondly, it’s not at all time that I am in the right frame of mind to write. I have to wait until my mood is set right for it.
Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what is it?
Of course, I learnt how important it is for one to be resilient and dogged. Also, I learnt new words and different traditions of different Igbo communities.
“The story is brilliantly captured and immensely satisfying. It is a profound work from a young and promising writer that is set to stir the literary world.”
– Chidi Onah (Hokkaido University, Japan)”
Where do your ideas come from?
Ultimately they come from God. The major parts of my ideas come during the very early mornings and when I am asleep at night. Sometimes I draw ideas from things that happen around me and from reading books by other writers.
What can we expect from you in future?
A whole lot. I have other books in the ‘pipeline’. I am currently working on a play which will be published soon. Also, expect good Nollywood movies with my name as the story/screenplay in the future. I am currently working with a Nigerian daily as a columnist.
Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?
My advice to them is that they should hold on to their dreams. They shouldn’t just write with the motive of making money. They should write to inspire, motivate and teach. Above all, determination is very important for any aspiring writer. Thank you..!
“The author provides a satisfactory and breathtaking resolutions as the architects of the crimes all get their due dosage from the nemesis and reappearance of the stolen joy”
– Hon Agu Chineme O-one (Editor-in-chief, Flash Newspaper) “
To contact Hillary and find out more about the book email firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect with him on facebook here: Hillary Odo